Angelenos have it good when it comes to seafood, perhaps due simply to our proximity to the Pacific Ocean or maybe because of the ever-evolving philosophy our local chefs have on preparing fish, crustaceans and other delicious creatures from the sea.
With our treasure chest of ethnically diverse neighborhoods we have access to globally inspired cuisine on top of traditional Americana, and the result can be both tasty and surprising.
But the real question is, where do you start?
Consider this list an education on the thriving seafood culture in Los Angeles. From a East L.A. food truck that makes the best fried shrimp tacos to colossal seafood platters you grill yourself in K-Town, there’s something for everyone’s budget.
And of course we can’t leave out our city’s two Michelin star restaurant that elevates seafood to unimaginable levels (and prices!). Totally worth it btw.
In any case, we hope you enjoy this list of top seafood spots in L.A. presented below in no particular order, numbered only for reference.
1. Providence (Hollywood)
Still the reigning champ of “Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants” list, Providence’s pair of Michelin stars are well deserved. Chef Michael Cimarusti and his team create some of the most inventive seafood dishes our city has ever seen. Cimarusti’s penchant for fish had him develop a Dock to Dish program where local fisherman sell what they catch in season directly to chefs. This sustainable approach dictates the changing menu with items ranging from Santa Barbra spot prawns to wild striped sea bass and wild east coast fluke which can all be viewed on the restaurants Instagram.
[RELATED: 16 Best Places to Eat on Melrose Ave]
2. Mariscos Jalisco (Boyle Heights)
Raul Ortega and his crew have created a Boyle Heights institution that tops the list of best food trucks and mariscos in L.A. Seen in Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold’s documentary City of Gold the Jalisco food truck is best known for their signature item the taco dorado de camaron (fried shrimp taco) topped with tangy tomato salsa, cabbage and sliced avocado- it’s the only taco on the menu and rightfully so. A variety of fresh vibrant ceviches are also offered on the menu. The Mixta with octopus and shrimp are piled atop a crunchy tostada and a newer item, the Poseidon, is similar to the Mixta in ingredients but topped with a spicy Aguachile, and perfect for those who can take the heat. Also, try the Peinados, an oyster dish served in the shell topped with pico de gallo, octopus and shrimp. It’s basically oysters topped with ceviche (seafood topped with seafood, yay!).
3. Santa Monica Seafood (Santa Monica)
For over 70 years the Santa Monica Seafood market boast an outstanding selection of crustacean, bivalve and sushi grade fish delivered fresh daily. Stop into their cafe during happy hour Monday through Friday (2:00pm to 5:00pm) to enjoy discounted items that include crab cakes, fritto misto and ceviche. The regular menu consist of fusilli seafood pasta, lobster roll and grilled trout. Notably, Santa Monica Seafood is the first and only seafood company in the U.S. internationally recognized with FSSC 22000 and ISO 14001 certifications. Basically their food safety practices are the strongest in the industry and their entire operation help reduce the environmental impact of the fishing industry. Now, that’s something to celebrate, perhaps with a glass of wine which the cafe also serves.
4. La Cevicheria (Arlington Heights)
Arlington Heights is not a location known for their seafood but La Cevicheria a small hole-in-the-wall that has been shucking bloody clams to locals (and most recently Yelpers and foodie types) for almost a decade now. Although the restaurant has not developed lines or crowds like Mariscos Jalisco it deserves some credit for keeping their seafood standards high and prices reasonably low. Order the Concha Negra (bloody clams) chopped up ceviche style, you’ll get a big metal bowl of epic portions and in it, clams and shrimp drenched in a dark burgundy broth topped with avocado and served with tostadas and saltines. Sometime’s what looks a bit frightening turns out to be devine- this is one of those times.
5. EMC Seafood & Raw Bar (Koreatown, Topanga canyon)
Located in Koreatown and Topanga Canyon EMC has an extensive menu of fish that’s both appetizing and affordable. From fresh oysters ($1 from 4:00pm to 7:00pm daily!) to Hokkaido scallop carpaccio drizzled in ponzu the raw selections are more than palatable. Looking for cooked dishes? Creamy uni pasta is decadence in a bowl while stewed lemongrass mussels, clams in abalone broth and black pepper lobster make perfect shareable plates.
[RELATED: The 16 Best Places to Eat in Koreatown]
6. Jae Bu Do (Koreatown)
This Korean establishment is best known for their DIY charcoal grills and colossal seafood platters. Each table gets a grill and ash can be seen floating in the air on crowded nights. The feast sized platters of raw seafood include shrimp, clams, scallops, abalone and even lobsters on some nights. Toss them all on the grill and watch the your food cook before your eyes but be careful clams are known to pop with juice from the heat sometimes. All platters come with sides like corn cheese, steamed egg, ceviche, noodles, kimchi and sweet potatoes wrapped in foil, grilled at the end of your meal directly in the coal pit. It’s best to come hungry and don’t come dressed to the nines, unless you want your clothes to smell like smoke.
7. Maradentro (Studio City & Brentwood)
Maradentro’s menu is inspired heavily on the rich flavors of Mexican’s coastal cuisine. Think guacamole de langosta, tostadas de ceviche and tacos dorados de cameron (fried shrimp taco). To get a scope of what Jose Acevedo’s ambitious concept is like order some starters and hot entree’s but do not pass up the Chile Relleno de Siete Mares. This is Acevedo’s take on a traditional dish, only in his version the poblano chili is submerged in house-made seafood broth and served with a generous helping of fish, calamari, shrimp, mussels and octopus. The whole entree is accompanied by spongy ciabatta bread to soak up that savory broth.
8. Knuckle & Claw (Silver Lake)
Fresh lobster from the cold waters of Maine is the attraction at this Silver Lake eatery located right off Sunset. All lobsters are flown in overnight and only the knuckle and claw meat are used to make their famous lobster rolls. The result is a quarter pound of tender lobster meat stuffed inside a buttery roll with just a touch of mayonnaise, a squeeze of lemon and a dash of their secret seasoning. Although delicious, this place is not just about the lobster rolls. They also serve shrimp and Dungeness crab rolls, lobster pot pies, New England calm chowder, oysters on the half shell and a “Knuckle Sandwich” with your choice of protein inside a freshly baked sourdough with melted Cotswold cheddar cheese.
9. Newport Seafood (Alhambra, Rowland Heights, Beverly Hills)
Newport Seafood is famous for their special house lobster wok fried and topped with a generous amount of aromatics. Known for hearty servings of seafood the salt and pepper crab (also a hit) is known to weigh as much as 10 pounds. Needless to say you’ll want to bring an appetite and some friends who have one too for dinner at this family style restaurant. If you have a fondness for fried food order the spicy salt shrimp. Whole shrimps are fried with heads and shell intact. If you take a bite right into the shell the combo of salt, peppers and scallions will make you crave this one for days on end.
10. Coni’s Seafood (Inglewood)
Inglewood is not exactly recognized for it’s seafood but chef Sergio Peñuelas is recognized by all food critics and writers in Los Angeles. And rightfully so, his restaurant Coni’s Seafood is an excellent study on marisco culture. The shrimp menu alone lists over 20 dishes they come in forms including Aguachiles where the shrimp is marinated with lemon and green jalapeño puree. There’s also the Camarones Borrachos a.k.a “Drunken Shrimp” doused in tequila, garlic, cilantro and crushed pepper, or you can try shrimp chopped up in a Ceviche Marinero marinated in a black pungent sauce or in a Camarones a la Diabla, served with the shell and heads intact (if you really like the taste of marine suck out the essence concentrated in the head). Probably the most popular fish dishes include a trio of Smoked Marlin Tacos with melted cheese, Chicharrón de pescado made with tilapia and Pescado Zarandeado a Sinaloan specialty perfected by Peñuelas, where a whole butterflied snook fish (rare fish) is grilled and served with caramelized onions, house sauce and corn tortillas. Best part? The aforementioned menu items are really only the tip of the iceberg.
11. Herringbone (Santa Monica)
Located in the plaza of The Seychelle at Ocean Avenue South is Chef Brian Malarkey’s acclaimed ocean-to-table concept Herringbone. The menu features sustainable, responsibly-sourced ingredients from ocean, ranch and field which are seasonal and incorporated during peak times. Cold fare like the whole fish ceviche filet from the head down decorated in Fresno chilies and cilantro is an absolute stunner while buffalo ranch octopus and mussels tikka masala show off the propensity that Malarkey has for fish. Like most seafood heavy establishments the restaurant also hosts a Oyster Hour every Monday through Friday 4:30pm-6:30pm where you can dine of freshly shucked oysters for just $1.
12. SOL Cocina (Playa Vista)
The simplistic style of coastal cooking can be found at SOL Cocina where authentic Baja cuisine takes an elevated approach in technique, ingredients and flavors. Their signature seafood menu stands out with a bevy of hot and cold fare featuring a sampler platter called Just Chillin’ loaded with an assortment of shellfish on ice to the Hot & Raw Tropical Ceviche prepared with the catch of the day marinated in fresh-squeezed citrus juices, tropical fruits, Habanero chiles, mixed table side and accompanied by beet and sweet potato chips. On the cooked end you’ll find a Baja version of Oysters Rockefeller called Playa Broiled Oysters topped with Mexican cheeses, chorizo, green onions and jalapeño and shrimp chile relleno where the poblano pepper is stuffed with arroz verde, shrimp and cheese. Request to sit in view of the wood fire grill to catch a glimpse of your food being grilled. I had that luxury with the Puerto Nuevo style Main lobster, and the combination of the smoke from the wood fire grill with the mojo de ajo garlic butter was absolutely perfection at first bite… and second… and the third. Although I was seated inside a dimly lit restaurant in Playa Vista my tastebuds seem to have taken a vacation. Destination: The Baja Peninsula.
13. The Hungry Cat (Hollywood, Santa Monica)
David Lentz has a seafood empire that spans from Hollywood to Santa Monica and up the coast to Santa Barbara. Dine on delectable Cherrystone clams on ice or Peruvian scallops, kick it up a notch if you can handle a seafood tower housing a selection of crab legs, a variety of shellfish and trout roe. Cooked dishes like grilled diver scallops served with carrot risotto, black trumpet mushrooms, pea tendrils, pistachio aillade and uni butter showcase Chef Lentz’s seasonal approach to cooking. On top of the seasonal highlights The Hungry Cat hosts a number of events and tastings like Crab Fest in the summer.
14. Cape Seafood & Provisions (Fairfax District)
Cape Seafood is more of a fish market than a restaurant proper, but with Michael Cimarusti of Providence at the helm it’s possibly the best damn fish market you’ll ever step into by Los Angeles standards. Known for working towards a more sustainable fishing culture, offerings are fresh, seasonally available and sourced from sustainable fisheries. As for the prepared foods you’ll find a menu changing as often as the tides with items like New England clam chowder, house smoked wild king salmon bagel, lobster rolls and shrimp remoulade.
15. Fisherman’s Outlet (Downtown Los Angeles)
Fisherman’s Outlet sits in the southeast side of the Arts District surrounded by mostly warehouses and big rigs. Established in 1961, and recognized by the City of Los Angeles as a Downtown Landmark Restaurant, this is old school spot is Americana home recipe seafood at its best. Plump scallops, meaty shrimp and flaky fish are chard or deep fried served with garlic butter, cajun or teriyaki sauce, and then of course there are chowders, seafood cocktails and salads too. Fisherman’s Outlet is still family operated and their seafood comes directly from Ore-Cal, a distributor who also supplies some of the swankier seafood restaurants in our city.
What’s your favorite seafood restaurant or eatery in Los Angeles? Let us know in the comments below!